Blockchain Simplified

Croixstone‘s CXO Patti Weber recently participated in Skookum‘s largest Tech Talks to date. Josh Miller, Senior Software Engineer at Skookum, provided insight into blockchain technology and the uses beyond Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. The original blockchain was described in a 2008 bitcoin paper by Satashi Nakamoto, just 2 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. What makes blockchain so attractive is that it provides a level of trust that is interwoven in business transactions. People can now make transactions without middlemen which translates to greater control of funds and lower fees.

So, what is a blockchain? A blockchain is a digital encrypted ledger in which transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly. Like the name indicates, a blockchain is a chain of blocks containing information. Each block contains data, the hash (i.e., digital fingerprint that uniquely identifies the block and all the contents), and the hash of the previous block. When a block is created, a copy of the block is distributed on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. Each member of the P2P network gets a copy of the block, and a consensus is obtained to ensure that the chain has not been tampered with.
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The way the blocks are chained together using hashes, along with a “proof of work” mechanism and distribution through a P2P network, makes blockchains secure and trustworthy. The term immutability – its resistance to tampering or other changes – is often used when describing blockchain.
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Blockchains eliminate the need for middlemen (e.g., banks) making it more efficient than legacy systems. They exist within communities, and participants that operate within an industry can all operate on the same chain, and therefore, have a copy of the distributed ledger.
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Applications of Blockchain
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As a result of the tamper-proof and hack-proof nature of blockchain, it is one of the most promising technologies with far-reaching applications. Here are just a few of the industries that are/will be impacted..
For a more detailed explanation of blockchain, see CNET’s recent article titled Blockchain explained: It builds trust when you need it most.
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For more information about industries impacted, check out: Banking Is Only The Beginning: 36 Big Industries Blockchain Could Transform

Is Design Thinking the Hottest New Trend in Banking?

So what is “design thinking? 

And just how can it give banks a competitive edge?

Design thinking is about applying the principles of design to the way people interact with the world.  Design thinking is a method for practical, creative resolution of problems. It is a form of solution-based thinking with the intent of producing a constructive future result.

Writer Lisa Joyce of The Financial Brand (a digital publication focused on marketing and strategy issues affecting retail banks and credit unions) published a recent article suggesting that banks can gain a competitive edge through using design thinking.

Read the article here.


Consulting Industry Outlook 2018

It’s a good time to be in the consulting world!  According to the recently released Consulting Magazine’s 2018 Executive Outlook report, the theme for the consulting industry this year is “Let the Good Times Roll.”

The positive economic momentum + recent corporate tax cuts equal an “upbeat and bullish forecast” for the consulting industry. As result, the industry remains strong and firms are in the “midst of a hiring frenzy” to get the work done. Below is a high-level overview of the results in the report:

  • 97% of leading consulting firms surveyed experienced real revenue growth over the last 12 months.
  • 98% of executives are forecasting growth in 2018, and 94% are saying that growth will exceed 6%.
  • 95% of firm leaders anticipate net profits will improve, and 62% of the firms predict net profits will be up more than 10% in 2018.

The survey was conducted in the latter part of 2017 with more than 130 Managing Directors, Partners and Vice Presidents participating. To read the full 2018 Executive Outlook, click here.


Seed20 OnStage!

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Today, we focus on an upcoming event dedicated to those in the Charlotte community that are “doing for others” each and every day…SEED20 OnStage!

SEED20 is the annual program of Social Venture Partners Charlotte (a nonprofit organization) to identify, highlight and connect the community to the region’s most promising social entrepreneurs tackling pressing challenges.

Croixstone’s Mark Weber is serving as the Lead Partner for this year’s powerful program, best known for its high-energy SEED20 OnStage event where ten members of the SEED20 class compete to win cash awards by making three-minute “pitches” to a panel of judges and a community audience.

This year’s event takes place at the Bechtler Museum and Knight Theater in front of an audience of 1,000 guests on April 16, 2018.  We invite you to view the SEED20 video and website to learn more.

Tickets for the event are now on sale.  To purchase tickets, Click Here


2018: The Year of Professional Courage

With months of revelations about sexual harassment and abuse of men and women across industries, we encourage you to make 2018 the year of professional courage. Guest blogger, Tony Armeni, shares his insights below.

What are we to think of all the news about workplace behavior, and particularly sexual harassment, in the media of late?
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I am sure you have read and heard every possible angle about the individuals, situations, causes, explanations, and even excuses. Who knew? When did they know? How could this be?
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The one thing I have heard little about is accountability. Do we really need more training and clarifications from attorneys about the definition of sexual harassment? Do we need more value statements about integrity and transparency? The answer is NO! It is time for human resource leaders, and their executive peers, to step up and start holding their organizations and individuals in them accountable for behaviors that are in clear violation of the policies and training that they have already established. Enough about all the grey areas, misinterpretations, consensual this and that and all the other excuses. We know what this looks and sounds like. We know what the right thing to do is.  Now we need to start doing it.  
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No more separating the offender from the accuser, rationalizing how you can’t afford to lose the star performer, implementing mutual separation agreements for the accuser and so forth. Let’s eradicate the innuendo and foul language, jokes, inappropriate remarks and other behaviors that create a culture of tolerance and acceptance.
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It is important to make sure our policies on workplace behavior and sexual harassment are well communicated and that we have trained everyone in our organizations. We must take every complaint seriously and investigate thoroughly. Once all the facts are known, we must do the right thing, regardless of who the violator might be.
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Merriam-Webster defines courage as the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. Get an early start on your new year’s resolutions and begin now to demonstrate professional courage and start leading your organization’s accountability crusade. Let’s make 2018 the year of professional courage.
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About Our Guest Blogger
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Tony Armeni, MBA, SPHR and SCP, is a senior consultant in Croixstone’s human capital practice. With extensive experience in diverse industries, cultures and environments (including Fortune 200 companies), Tony has delivered high-impact results to support the business objectives, change initiatives and leadership development activities at companies including SCOR, Joerns Healthcare, Sompo Japan, CSX World Terminals and more. Tony offers deep expertise in helping organizations navigate through sexual harassment complaints, investigations and training.
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Are you ready to make 2018 the year of professional courage?  For a confidential discussion, contact Mark Weber, Managing Partner, at (980) 263-0234 or by email at mweber@croixstone.consulting


Executive Spotlight: Patti Weber, Croixstone CXO

Patti Weber serves as Croixstone Consulting’s Chief Experience Officer (CXO).  In her role, Patti leverages best practices in design and user experience to serve both the firm’s employee-based consultants and clients. 

  • How did you enter the consulting field? I was a client of Accenture in Detroit and partnered with the firm on a strategic, multi-year technology transformation initiative. From there, I was recruited by Accenture and joined the firm’s Financial Services Practice in Minneapolis and provided leadership to large project teams serving top-tier banks and insurance clients.
  • Your career path includes roles such as corporate trainer and public educator. How have these roles been of benefit to you in the consulting industry? I have learned to never make assumptions and to ask lots of questions. A solution can be obtained through many different avenues.
  • If you could pick one theme for Croixstone to turn into a book about the company, what would it be? Maverick talent. 
  • Before working at Croixstone, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had? I sorted mail for several state of Wisconsin government buildings while enrolled in the School of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
  • Three words to best describe you? Passionate. Inquisitive. Loyal.
  • Any random facts you could share with us? 2 and 5 are the only prime numbers that end with a 2 or a 5.
  • Motto or personal mantra? Never give up.
  • What is your favorite number and why? 3. If you know the song “Three is a Magic Number”, you will understand why.
  • What is your hidden talent? Swimming. I was a Big 10 collegiate swimmer who specialized in long-distance swimming events and the 200 and 400 individual medleys. While in high school, I was a three-time State competitor who swam five different events.
  • What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13? Being a girl who loves math and science is something for which you should be proud.
  • Little known fact? When I was in elementary school, my dad taught me how to calculate the square root of any number using a pencil and paper. 

#MakeYourMark in 2018

Happy New Year!  The Croixstone team is ready with some creative ways to start the year off on the right foot.  It’s time to #MakeYourMark in 2018.

  • One great way to start the year is by enjoying the great outdoors on New Year’s Day.  North Carolina State Parks will be hosting First Day Hikes throughout the state to start the year off right.  To read more about First Day Hikes in North Carolina, check out a story in the Shelby Star here and see a full list of hikes sponsored by North Carolina State Parks here.
  • Looking to make 2018 your healthiest year yet?  Start the year off with a free Healthy Lunch & Fitness Goal-Setting Session hosted by NoDa Personal Training.  To learn more and to register, click here.
  • Ready to take your career to the next level?  Check out 10 things to do in the new year to skyrocket your career in 2018 here.

Uniquely Charlotte Gift Ideas

With Christmas less than 2 weeks away and Hanukkah in progress, we know you may be scrambling to find that perfect gift.  Why not try out some uniquely Charlotte treasures?

Uniquely Charlotte Gifts
In November 2017, Architectural Digest named The Ivey’s Hotel as the most beautiful hotel in North Carolina. Why not plan a get-away at the The Ivey’s Hotel in Uptown Charlotte and explore what the city has to offer? Read more about The Ivey’s Hotel and take a glimpse at the inside here.
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Need a beautiful piece of jewelry for someone special in your life? Fashion and Compassion is a non-profit boutique located in South End that specializes in fashionable fair trade jewelry made by women overcoming poverty & injustice around the world.

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Check out 43 local gift ideas for 2017 in  Charlotte Magazine’s Gift Guide.
Looking for a unique leather gift from a local company? Check out Anchor Leather Co. The Croixstone team first became familiar with Ethan Martin’s company at a Vintage Charlotte Pop-Up event two years ago, and we absolutely love their hard-wearing, fine leather goods. You can also find their goods sold on Etsy.
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Does someone on your list need a new professional head-shot? Consider giving Jim McGuire Photography and Video a call. Located in Studio1212 off of 10th Street, Jim recently captured pictures for the Croixstone team. Stay tuned for an unveiling in 2018.
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Give the gift of an experience.  Here are 101 Fun Things to Do in Charlotte.

 


100 Best Apps
Even before iPhones and Androids, the concept of mobile applications or mobile apps existed. The first smart phone with mobile app technology was actually developed by IBM in 1993 and was equipped with features like a calculator, world clock, calendar and contact book. In 2002 came the next major step in the advancement of mobile apps with the release of the BlackBerry Smartphone.
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When Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone seven years later, he effectively proved he could disrupt and transform the market. Soon after that, Apple launched the App Store and officially introducing third-party app development and distribution to the platform in July of 2008. As of March 2017, there were 2.2 million available apps in the Apps Store.
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Not to be outdone by Apple, the first Android phone was launched in October 2008 with apps available through the Google Play Store, formerly known as Android Market. As of March 2017, Android users were able to choose between 2.8 million apps.
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So, what are the 100 best apps that can turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades today?
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Learn more about the revolutionary mobile app development trends to look for in 2018 here.